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FEMA Hotline on Funeral Costs Is Swamped on Day One

More than 1 million people called to take advantage of government assistance for COVID-linked deaths
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2021 11:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – More than 564,000 Americans have died of COVID, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been trying to help with funeral expenses. On Monday, FEMA opened up a hotline that allowed those who've lost loved ones to the coronavirus to apply for reimbursement of up to $9,000 per funeral, or $35,500 in total for any individual applicant who's had multiple family members die of COVID. CBS News reports that more than 1 million calls flooded the hotline on its launch day. "There was definitely congestion on the line," acting FEMA Director Bob Fenton told a Homeland Security subcommittee, adding that the tech issues and clogged phone lines eased up a bit by Tuesday. To qualify, the funeral expenses must have occurred after Jan. 20, 2020, with a death certificate indicating the death "may have been caused by" or "was likely the result of" COVID.

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Forbes adds that although the person applying for the reimbursement funds must be "a US citizen, noncitizen national, or qualified alien," the deceased isn't required to be, as long as the death took place within the US or its territories. Documentation other than a death certificate may also be required, including receipts and funeral home contracts. WGAL warns interested parties to beware of scammers who offer to help register people with the FEMA program in an attempt to swipe their personal and financial info. Instead, those who want to apply should call 844-684-6333 directly. FEMA is asking applicants to be patient during the process. "Please know there is no deadline to apply," the agency says in a statement. "We will not rush through calls because we intend to make sure that every applicant gets their questions answered and receives the help they need." (Read more FEMA stories.)

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